Meghalaya's United Democratic Party (UDP) has decided to quit the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) - the BJP-led anti-Congress political alliance in the Northeast - over the Narendra Modi government's stand on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. But it will remain in Meghalaya's Conrad Sangma-led alliance government, where the BJP is also a partner.
The decision was announced by party working president Paul Lyngdoh in Shillong today. The UDP - which has eight legislators in the 60-member Meghalaya Legislative Assembly - also sounded the call to build a new secular alliance of regional parties in the region.
The UDP is the third party after Assam-based Asom Gana Parishad and Nagaland's Naga People's Front to quit NEDA, which is seen as the backbone of BJP's phenomenal electoral performances in the Northeast after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Sources in the UDP told NDTV that the decision was taken after BJP president Amit Shah categorically said at a party rally in Assam last Sunday that his party would revive the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill if it comes back to power in the country. His remarks provoked protests from various political parties and indigenous groups in the Northeast even as the controversial bill seemed fated to lapse after not being tabled in the Rajya Sabha last week.
The development comes a day when the AGP is holding a crucial meet in Guwahati to decide if it should ally with the BJP again or go solo in the parliamentary elections. The party had snapped ties with the BJP soon after the controversial bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. Although three of its ministers tendered their resignations too, they are yet to be accepted by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. This, observers believe, is a signal from the BJP that it is still open to an alliance with the AGP.
The bill - which gave rise to protests across the Northeast over the last few months - is aimed at hastening the process of providing citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Protesters and rights activists have termed the legislation as "discriminatory".